Monday, March 9, 2015

Series: This Week's TV MVPs - Week 3

It's been a surprisingly TV-lite week (and this week will be more of the same, with many shows gone for hiatus and a number more having already aired their finales), but nevertheless, there were some fantastic performers on our television screens this week and we would like to celebrate them! Apologies that this post is late and therefore technically in a new week of television (vacation messes up your blogging schedule. Who knew?!).

So without any further adieu, let's talk about some great performers in last week's television series. Joining me to discuss this week are:

Jenn's MVP: Zooey Deschanel as Jessica Day (New Girl)

Why she's the MVP: I love the way that Zooey Deschanel plays Jessica Day and how the character has evolved throughout the years. I really and truly do. I think that, at the beginning, Jess was brushed aside as this cooky, weird girl who sang to herself and had giant eyes. But Jess has always been a strong character. It's taken her a while to realize it, but when New Girl began, the whole series hinged on how these three men (Nick, Schmidt, and Winston) were going to change Jess's life and help her become better and how she would, in turn, help them become better. I love Jessica Day because she's flawed but she never stops trying and she never stops believing she can be better. But what I really love about her is something Zooey Deschanel wonderfully portrayed in "Walk of Shame": Jess's acceptance of who she is and where she is in life.

In a world that tells her that she needs to be married to be happy or that she has to have kids in order to find meaning and success and fulfillment, I love how messed up Jess is. I love that she doesn't have everything in her life figured out. Because that gives me hope that I don't have to, either. On TV, we're so used to seeing perfect characters: wonderful, flawed characters but ones with Martha Stewart kitchens and successful jobs and really nice clothes. And what I love is that New Girl is a show about people still on their own freakin' journeys. It's a show about men and women who don't have life all figured out, even when it seems like they have to. And Zooey did a hilarious job in this episode (her song with Josh Gad and Justin Long? HILARIOUS), but she also managed to portray the strength of Jess through her monologue to Paul about not having her life figured out. Zooey did a fantastic job in this episode of reminding us all that it's okay to not have yourself put-together, as long as you keep walking and keep trying. 

Laura's MVP: Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Why he's the MVP: With every new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, we see Dennis go more and more insane. He simply cannot handle the pressure of being the great Dennis Reynolds. And each season I am more and more impressed with Glenn Howerton’s ability to play such a maniac. The truth is that no one does ‘complete mental breakdown’ as well as Howerton does. In this week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny, Dennis so badly wanted the gang to come across as normal on Family Fight (a clear spoof on Family Feud), but what he should have really been concerned about is himself. With every incorrect or repeated answer from Dennis, he became more agitated by the buzzer until he literally crumbled under the pressure. And it was hilarious. 

Howerton plays Dennis so well, easily switching between the arrogant jerk and the crazed lunatic. The character is clearly delusional, believing he is the most normal person in the gang when he’s actually the most troubled and Howerton’s performance in this week’s episode highlighted that. At the end of the episode, when he is collapsed on the floor insisting that “this doesn’t represent me, though” it is incredibly funny while at the same time being so pathetic that you almost feel bad for him. Any other actor might take this character too far; with a character like Dennis, it’s easy to cross the line from comedy into annoyance. Howerton manages to stay completely on the side of comedy and it is a delight to watch him portray Dennis, especially when he’s having a mental breakdown. 

Ashley's MVP: Caterina Scorsone as Amelia Shepherd (Grey's Anatomy)

Why she's the MVP: For MVP this week, I have to go with Caterina Scorsone as Amelia Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy. For several episodes now, Amelia has been working on a plan to remove Dr. Herman’s impossible tumor, and all while fighting to get out from under the shadow of her brother. On “The Distance” the time finally comes to operate, and Amelia shows why she’s now one of the best characters on the show. (Words cannot express how happy I was when they brought her in following the end of Private Practice.) Just before surgery begins, she prepares by standing in “superhero pose.” Basically, she’ll take any help she can get right now, especially if it means boosting her confidence. But when the clock starts ticking, Amelia can’t figure out where to start. She’s in the exact position her brother has been in before, and all confidence goes out the window.

Amelia becomes humbled and broken in front of Richard (it’s still hard for me not to just call him “the chief”), and she begs him to get Derek out there to help.

It’s a brief moment of weakness, but I think that moment shows just how strong she really is. Richard convinces her she’s got this, and surgery begins. She powers through hours of surgery with intense focus, keeping the audience on the edge of our seats the entire time. I’m not sure I’ve rooted for a surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy this much since… maybe ever. And that’s not just because we care pretty deeply for the patient on the table, but because we want so badly for Amelia to succeed.
Maybe the reason Amelia is such a great character is because she’s able to show that balance of being both incredibly tough and incredibly vulnerable.

This is also a character who is still redeeming herself from past actions (drug addiction and irresponsible choices on Private Practice). She’s learned from those mistakes, and she’s stronger than ever now. Amelia continues to race the clock, and in a critical moment, takes off her glove to complete the surgery, exposing herself to dangerous amounts of radiation. The surgery is mostly a success, in that Dr. Herman is alive and well. Unfortunately, she’s now completely blind.

Stephanie, who has been learning from Amelia throughout the process, breaks down in tears over that news. It’s Amelia’s speech to her that solidifies my choice of Amelia for MVP this week. She’s not only a strong woman and a great surgeon, but she’s a heck of a mentor, too.
Amelia: You defeated death. Mere mortals cannot do that. Only we can.
Stephanie: Only superheroes.
Amelia: Only freakin’ superheroes.

Jaime's MVP: Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Why she's the MVP: This weekend, all thirteen episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt went up on Netflix, and naturally, I spent a solid day lying in my bed watching every episode.  That wasn’t my intention – originally I was just going to watch an episode or two, but within just a few minutes of the premiere, I was completely swept away by its infectious spirit that I had to keep watching.

That joyful, bouncy spirit of the show is completely brought by Ellie Kemper’s performance as Kimmy.  She provided a similar energy when she joined The Office, but now Kemper gets the spotlight and is able to infuse the spirit of the show itself with her excited approach to the character.  Everything Kimmy does, she does with joy and reverence – in fact, every episode title ends with an exclamation point because no matter what Kimmy’s doing, she’s doing it enthusiastically.  So even if it’s something as mundane as going to the doctor, to Kimmy, it’s a huge deal.  Kemper never lets you forget that this is a woman whose life only began the moment she left the bunker as a 29-year-old, so her appreciation for the world around her is growing constantly as she lets herself experience new things.  Well – things that are new to her.

It’s a concept and characterization that could go stale fast.  So many other shows and movies have included a character who’s constantly amazed at the modern world around them.  So while each episode does show Kimmy confused and sometimes overwhelmed by the status of technology or pop culture, it never gets old because Kemper is just so believable and adorable.  No matter what, you’re excited to watch Kimmy be excited about everything she encounters because it always leads to growth.  And for as masterfully as Kemper portrays a woman with an overwhelming desire to participate in this world that confuses her, she’s even better at playing Kimmy once she’s gained some familiarity with something new.  You just can’t take your eyes off Kimmy as she adjusts to her new life in New York City with her friends, and her life in the bunker far behind her.

That's it for this week in TV MVPs! Be sure to join us this weekend for another installment. Until then, hit up the comments with some of your favorite performances from last week. :)

1 comment:

  1. And I was going to say my MVP this week was Zooey but you basically wrote what I was going to mention!

    So I'll talk about Max Greenfield and his performance as Schmidt.

    One of the things that impressed me with Schmidt and Max's performance is how much he knows Schmidt. (Like in Tuesday's episode, when he is telling Coach not to put the toothpick in the lady's purse. A simple scene I know but a pure Schmidt scene as not only is he trying to help his friend but also showing frustration at Coach as well.)

    Also I name him MVP for his comment while trying to give Coach confidence. "You are Coach. You're sex in a sweatsuit!" As perfect a Schmidt line and delivered with gusto by Max.

    So I like how Schmidt was there for his friend trying to help him but he never once stops being Schmidt.

    This is a wonderful weekly post all of you ladies do and I want to say thank you for letting me express my comment on my MVP!